Originally published in London Student Newspaper December 2011.

I was lucky enough to interview Capdown’s lead singer Jake and bassist Boob before the final gig of their UK tour 2012, at London’s Koko.

Can you tell me a bit more about how the band was formed, and how or what inspired you to create the combination of dub, ska and punk.

B: Well, we were just four mates from school really. All into Nirvana, used to play covers twice the speed that they were written.  Then Kurt died and we found Greenday,  then Rancid and NOFX, and Operation Ivy and the Clash. We also started to listen to other music as well, we were just trying and find a way to make the music that we wanted to make.

J: I already played the sax before getting into that sort of stuff as well, when I was a kid.  I guess that had an influence on playing the type of the music that we were listening to. But it’s always been about liking a bunch of music and getting it all in there. Some of it’s probably more obvious to other people than other parts of it.

That’s the whole point of influences though really, you don’t pick and choose who you want to emulate, it just naturally occurs.

J: Yeah, and there’s the obvious influences in there. The Nirvana stuff might not be as clear but I definitely think that once you mention it to people they can probably find it in there, in terms of some of it being a little bit discordant, or a lot of minor chords rather than always a major, happy sound.

B: I think we did stuff that we thought was original because we didn’t know a lot about that type of music, and I’ve found a lot of good bands by people saying that you sound like so and so, and then you go and listen to the band and you’re like “Oh my God, yeah we do”. We had no idea we were doing it so that’s quite nice as well. We’ve found influences from what we’ve done.

Was there much similar music in Milton Keynes, because there’s quite a strong ska scene in London?

B: Not really no, there’s a band now called Anti-Vigilante who are really good.

J: But at the time we were fairly isolated anyway, we grew up in a little town just outside of Milton Keynes. You needed a car to get outside of there, so it was all very insular. There was no scene to be a part of, we were the only people in that town that were into that sort of thing and it’s just what each of us managed to find from different places, like a lead from a magazine. It was a different way of finding music back then –  I sound like an old bastard! It would be a matter of seeing a band’s name on a sticker in the background of a poster and then you’d go and find that from your local library. It was more about those sorts of leads rather than it really being part of a scene.

B: I remember you finding Gorilla Biscuits from a library.

Just by accident, tucked away amongst the journals?

J: [laughs] I’m sure it came from a sticker in the background of a music video or something like that. Literally, I can remember finding a few bands that way.

What do you feel is the state of the UK ska scene right now, with the demise of really iconic bands like No Comply, Adequate 7 and King Prawn?

B: It was never a ska scene to us, it was a punk rock scene, and we’re a bit out of touch with it all. You’ve got bands like The Skints, who personally we love, and there are good bands out there. That’s been the nice thing about playing again, going out and meeting these bands, and they’ve obviously got their own community like we used to have. That’s been one of the best things about this year.

J: Obviously with the music there has been a common link there, but it was always more about enjoying people’s company and hanging out. We used to have bands on tour with us because they were people that we wanted to hang out with. We like the music but it wasn’t ever ‘oh it’s a ska band, or it’s this band or the other band’. And I’m in absolutely no position to tell you anything about any scene at the moment because I don’t have anything to do with it! [laughs]

B: It was always the cross over for us. We used to play with hardcore bands, like Knuckledust and then Down, so we didn’t just play with ska bands. That seems to have come after, at some point. I don’t think that we feel at all, like Jake says, in a position to tell you how it is now. You’re probably in a much better position than we are!

Tonight’s line up seems almost like a generational cross section of what I would consider the ska scene. You’ve got new, up and coming bands like The Skints and JB Conspiracy who are very much in the start of their careers, and then you’ve got yourselves who are the veterans now. How does that feel?

B: Yeah, I feel like a veteran!

J: It feels good in terms of wanting to play gigs where there’s a good line up. And I think that’s the case regardless, but it’s great to have people like The Skints. It feels fresh and current and it doesn’t seem too much like a retrospective gig, which I’m not a big fan of anyway, of bands forever coming back. We generally didn’t think about it in that preconceived way, and we wouldn’t have told you that we would be back here playing to as many people as we are today.

B: I think ultimately, if we’re asking people to come along and pay money to watch our band, we want them to have a good night. We want to put on good music for them;  I think we’ve done that tonight. And it’s quite funny, it’s actually the biggest London headline we’ve done in our own right as well, and that feels kind of weird for a band that doesn’t really exist, when we’ve put it down for 4 or 5 years to come back and there’s still a full house of people who want to watch us. We’re so grateful for that.

How does it feel to come and play Koko? I’ve seen you play a few times at the Peel at the start of Civil Disobedients , and there’s simply a step and a stage. It’s a long way from there.

B: Well we did lots of things like this in the past, we’ve played lots of big gigs and I think that’s the thing I like about our band: a big gig isn’t bad and a little gig isn’t good. You get good big gigs and bad big gigs. Playing somewhere like this doesn’t faze us at all, maybe we haven’t done it for a while but we always played all sorts of venues. That’s been nice about playing again this year; we’ve done some small basement gigs, but we’ve also done some things like Reading and Leeds, and Koko, and we enjoy it all. I think every gig is a challenge and we want it to be as good as it could be, and I think that’s when we feel satisfied coming off stage.

Have you got any particular preference, for example, with Slamdunk last year and Reading this year, obviously capacity is huge.

B: There are different gigs that have different places in our hearts. We love Reading and Leeds, and they are always so good to us. The Peel, we love the Peel. There’s lots of different types of gigs that we’ve always enjoyed. There’s not a rule to it. It can be who’s putting the gig on – at the Peel, the Banquet Records guy is an old, old friend, and that’s awesome. And we know that he loves this band, so we know when he books us it’s because he wants to watch us play, it’s not because he’s trying to make money out of it. So gigs can be enjoyable for many different reasons; it could be the people you meet, it could be the venue, if you want to get anal it could be the monitor sound, like tonight has an amazing sound and we’re all stoked on the monitors. [laughs] There’s no rule to it.

I assume festival shows are something that you’ve grown up with yourself, going to Reading maybe?

J: I think I’ve played there a lot more than I’ve been there for any other reason! I actually think we grew up that way, playing festivals rather than going to them but they are always a cool thing. It’s nice to hang out with a bunch of bands, it’s good times and it’s a privileged position to be in. As long as you never take it for granted I think it’s always good. That shows that when you play it’s exactly the same as this and or any other show; as soon as you take it for granted people can tell and it ends up being a rubbish show. I think particularly for a band like us it requires a good performance. We’ve always put on a gig that is 100% and pretty physical and energetic, and if you’re not genuinely committed to it, to the show for the sake of the show, then I think people can tell straight away. That’s when I would never want to do it again, as soon as I felt like that.

B: I think people know us. They’ve seen us over 10/15 years, they’ve chatted with us at gigs, they know when it’s for real. Like Jake said, the day that it doesn’t feel ‘real’ is the day that it will never happen again, for definite.

I’d agree. From the other side of the wall there seems to be no pretension or arrogance. You all genuinely seem to enjoy your gigs.

B: I hope not, and if there is I hope it’s notable that it’s tongue in cheek [laughs].

J: I feel more like that these days as well, because I think it’s easy to get lost in that world. I enjoy doing other things now which are just as important as music and I’m just as proud to be a part of, even though they don’t hold the same fame benefits. I’m just as proud to do those things and then to come back and do this. I genuinely don’t feel that I am any different to the person on the other side. You know, on any other day of the week these days, more than 9 times out of 10, I am the person on the other side, it just happens to be that this year, 10 days in the year I’m on this side. It feels, even more so now, that everyone’s getting together to have a good time.

B: We’ve never been lost in rock [laughs].

Plenty of time left though!

B: [laughs] Watch this space.

That leads on nicely to my next question regarding your social lives. In the early 2000’s I think it was, you played 250 gigs in one year.

B: And wrote and recorded Civil Disobedients, and Pound for the Sound the year after.

So a pretty busy time. How are you filling your time these days, are you attending many gigs?

J: Er no [laughs].

B: I don’t get out much. I’ve got a young child and another one coming in 2 weeks, and I work with adults with learning disabilities and adult social care, which is brilliant.

Do you ever play them Capdown?

B: No, I have started putting on some gigs though. Get Cape, Wear Cape, Fly did a gig for us which is really cool, and King Blues which was awesome. It’s a Quality Rocks thing that I’m trying to run, but like Jake said, I genuinely feel that I’ve found something that is different to what I used to do but gives me that same fulfilment, and that same working towards something, making something better; whether or not it’s making the band better for you and your band family or it’s making things better for other people. I’m somebody that likes to be on a mission, I’ve got a new mission and I’m quite happy with it.

J: Sometimes when I go back to more rock and roll situations, I can have conversations with people that I do like but they become a bit self-important. I love music and you can see that it’s been a  massive part of my life but it is only one part of it. I really believe that there are millions of things out there that you can do that are just as worthwhile, just as rewarding, and are just as important as a contribution towards things. I think it’s easy when you’re involved with this sort of thing to lose sight of that and see music as all important, getting up your own arse and thinking ‘I’m cool because I do this, that and the other’; I have absolutely no time for that whatsoever.

B: Really you’re a cog in the entertainment industry.

J: Which is fine, there’s nothing wrong with that. But equally there’s nothing wrong with doing another job and being proud of that.

Everyone needs to work together to create a cohesive society.

J: Yeah, everyone plays a different role. Music plays a massively important part of millions of people’s lives but so is social care, or whatever you want to do.

B: I think on a personal note as well, because we started this band when we were quite young, we worked for so hard for quite a lot of our formative years, I think we were in danger of becoming defined by the band, like ‘I’m the dude out of Capdown’, not ‘I’m my own individual and I’ve got my own life’. Like Jake said, I think it’s easy to get caught up in that stuff. When we split up, that’s what it was about for us. We were saying that there’s more to life and I don’t want this not to be a part of my life but it can’t be the way it was. I think that’s where we are now, we’ve come back the other way, which is that I’ve got a nice wonderful life and a family and now I want music back in my life. We’re not working towards something now, it’s just on our terms. The band is there to pick up when we want it and to put back down when we don’t.

So what is Capdown’s status currently, to clarify?

J: I was just about to tell you anyway without you asking. There doesn’t have to be a clarification! Everyone will ask you for it and they won’t stop asking until you give the answer that they want to hear but the fact is that there isn’t one. Literally, we’re just playing for a good time. There are no plans to do anything else or to write any other records.  I’m not going to say that we’re not going to because what’s the point in telling you what’s going to happen in two years time. I don’t know, I might have seven kids instead of three or I might have won the Euro Millions. Tonight we’re going to play at Koko and have a good time, tomorrow whatever.

B: It could be our last show ever, it might not. And that’s not some kind of marketing ploy! We have no idea.

So it’s not a cliffhanger like they use in films to keep you in suspense?

B: [laughs] No, this isn’t to sell records, we just have no idea.

I guess from the fans point of view, just to know that there is a possibility, rather than Capdown being completely defunct is positive news.

B: There are many more factors that we need to consider now before we do something like this.  Because it’s harder to do now it’s much more enjoyable when we do get time to do it.

I’ve seen you play a lot since the early days of Civil Disobedients but I’ve never heard you play anything from the Time For Change EP.

J: That won’t be happening tonight either!

B: Good luck with that! [laughs]

Is there any particular reason why?

J: I’ll tell you why. In fact, I will give you one definitive answer in the entire interview that will represent the future of Capdown: we won’t be playing those songs ever again. They’re just old; there’s a difference between some of the stuff on your first record, it seems a little bit innocent, but the stuff on your first EP, that seems like a different band entirely. It’s like your first go at something. Why play your first go when you can play your third go?

B: I was going to say that we always like to look forward but this tour we’ve been playing loads of old thrash so that doesn’t fit either. [laughs] There’s no ideology to this anymore!

You’ve played with some massive bands in the past, like Bad Religion, Lagwagon and Pennywise. Any particular favourite memories from those tours?

B: They all blur into one. We know some of Pennywise’s crew quite well, so it was nice to see them. Less Than Jake have always been really good to us and whenever they’re over I go spend some time with them.

J: This is a cheesy answer as well, but it just doesn’t really matter what band they’re from. I can tell you about twenty people that I’m super chuffed to have met in my life and I wouldn’t have met them if I did something else. Some of my best friends from music are from small British bands that most people wouldn’t have heard of. I’m just as, if not more, pleased to have met them as I am someone out of Lagwagon.

B:  I think that’s one thing I will always take from my experiences, I’ve met people that I will hopefully know until I die. There’s a really good bunch of people that we know that I consider to be family, and that’s what I’m grateful for from this band. I wouldn’t have met my wife, I wouldn’t have my kids. It’s such a major thing in our life and that’s really what I’ve taken from this, it’s the people.

Your lyrics have always been quite politically charged, promoting of social change. Was there ever any particular message that you’ve wanted to put across?

J: I think we’ve always tried to steer clear of that if I’m honest. I always thought it was more about encouraging people to think in any way. I always have some fundamental faith that if people are given the right information and the right state of mind then they will probably come to, there’s no such thing as the ‘right’ conclusion, but at least an informed conclusion. I still think that the biggest barrier to social progress or social equality is ignorance, and that would be the message if I could give one.

B: It was never a  manifesto. It’s about equality and information and people have to go and find their own path. But ultimately I think that for myself it’s as simple as treat people as you would like to be treated and have some consideration for how your actions affect other people, be that here in Camden or where your coffee is grown. Being conscious about who you are.

J: Or make an unethical decision, which I still probably do on a daily basis, but do it knowing what you’re doing and feel comfortable with it in your own head for whatever reason.

Your latest release Wind Up Toys divided opinion between fans and reviewers.

J: I’m not even sure if it was divided to be honest! [laughs]

B: I know four people that like that album and they’re all in this venue now. [laughs]

What was the reason for the new direction, progress in your own lives?

J: I don’t think it was a new direction. People misinterpreted or didn’t listen to it properly and I suggest that they listen to it again. It’s more grown up, but I think the record as a whole is probably the biggest crossover record that we’ve done. It’s just less schizophrenic and more considered, and it took a lot more time writing and developing it and trying to give people what we do live on record. I think the first two records are brilliant for a load of kids making mistakes and just this energy, but I don’t feel that we’ve ever put our live shows across on record, truly. I think [Wind Up Toys] is the closest we came. There are things I’d change about it, like there are things I’d change about all of our albums.

I think it’s just that there were a certain few tracks that were a bit more melodic and considered, and it’s notoriously hard to even slightly change your style when you’ve got the success that you’ve achieved.

B: Yeah, I think we’ve grown up so much. Those first two records were done in the midst of so much touring, were rushed out so we can could go back on tour again because we loved hanging out in Europe and getting drunk and chatting politics with people. I think it was trying to do a record for records sake.

J: I think we stitched ourselves up. If we had done our job properly, we would have released five albums in four years, not three in ten. If [Wind Up Toys] had sat as the third release of five or six in a shorter period of time then I don’t think anyone would have noticed. They would have taken the few songs off of it that they enjoyed and they would have probably been the few songs that we would have played live from it in amongst the other ones, and then it would have been on to the next record. We left it for so long, partly because of writing, partly because of shit that no-one wants to know about to do with getting it out, and therefore it ended up coming out late.

B: If it had come when we had written it, it would have sounded super fresh and interesting but by the time we actually got around to releasing it, it had maybe missed its day. I do think that people should go and listen to it again. The four of us are proud of it, it’s the most work we’ve put into recording. I love the sound of it, I love the influences, the ideas. I think that some of the best things we ever did are on that record.

J: I do think that it was probably too far the other way for my taste. When I listen back to it now it did lose something, but it’s gained something also. That’s what I mean about if it had been the third one out of five because you learn a lesson from everything that you do. You have few studio experiences as a band, but you learn loads, an infinite amount from each one, and the fourth album would have taken lessons from all of those. It would have probably been more to people’s tastes in that it would have got back some of the edge that maybe was lost in production or wanting to get it right.

B: It’s not like we’re some band with a massive budget and we could have recorded it and gone ‘fuck it, let’s do it again’. We self-funded that record, we spent a lot of time, a lot of effort on it. It was one of our babies and it’s something we worked really hard for, so we stand by it.  We both wish that there had been more records but life got in the way. We burnt out really early, we worked far too hard for far too long. We came home one day and suddenly we were all five years older. Life was changing and it took us a while to adjust to that and grow up. We grew up on the road.

You started in your what, your early teens?

J: Yeah, certainly all of our adult lives we’ve been doing it. People always ask that as well, what advice would you give? People say that you’ve done two-hundred and fifty gigs in a year and that was probably good for a time but I’d say actually as a band the most important things are the records. Some people like me don’t even go to gigs but they still listen to records; records are what everyone listens to so you should probably take more time than we did to focus on that side of things because it’s fucking important.

Final question then. You’ve told us what we are not going to get tonight at the show, is there anything that we can expect?

B: Sweat, thrash, double time. Old Skool stuff, it’s just the four of us again and we’re doing more of the older, quicker stuff. It’s a back to our roots tour.

Big thanks to Jake and Boob of Capdown, and Koko for the interview.


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